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guano comix 4
solid writing
skilled art
historical bonus 2
total score 7
Guano Comix #4
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Only Printing / 1973 / 44 pages / The Print Mint
Guano Comix #4 is one of those underground mysteries wrapped in a blanket of enigma. Be prepared to get bored as I attempt to unravel the deep secrets of this comic book in this lengthy review.

Guano Comix #4 was ostensibly published by The Print Mint in 1972 (as stated on the inside front cover), but Jay Kennedy's Price Guide says it was actually 1973. When hand-drawn dates are included with artwork in the book, they all state 1971. But on page 19, there's a "National Fern Coloring Contest" that provides a mailing address and says that all contest entries will be displayed in the Great Fern Coloring Exhibition at Yougly Galleries in Houston, Texas from January 12 to 26, 1974. 1974? For artwork drawn in 1971? I can find no evidence that Yougly Galleries ever existed in Houston or anywhere else in the world. I get it, Yougly could be an inside joke for You Ugly or something, but they seem so sincere in offering a $25 prize for the winning entry....

Then there's the Houston/Jacksonville thing. The inside front cover of the book declares a copyright for Guano Comix, Jacksonville, Florida. But if the comic was created in Jacksonville, why would an art gallery in Houston even be mentioned? The coloring contest page lists a street address in Houston for the art gallery, but the current building at that address is a three-bedroom home (built in 1992). Evidence that the gallery was always somebody's house instead of a real art gallery? Perhaps the old house was torn down to build another one? Or did the zoning laws change and it used to be a commercial business zone? And in any case, how does Jacksonville, Florida fit into all this Houston stuff?

Then there's the issue #4 issue. Kennedy's Price Guide indicates that Guano Comix #1, #2 and #3 were college humor magazines, but I have never encountered any evidence that he was right about that. The Atomic Avenue website states that issues 1 to 3 never existed, or at the very least were never published. How do they know that? And if the first three issues don't exist, what reason, if any, did the comic creators (or front cover artist) decide to go with #4?

Equally mysterious are the people who wrote and drew Guano Comix. There's not a single name on the list (provided in Kennedy) that is known to have contributed to another comic book. And, in fact, the list of contributors is apparently impossible to complete, as a handful of pages in the book are uncredited and no one knows who did them.
Yet there are several fine examples of comic artwork in the book. Perhaps Guano Comix is indeed associated with some art college in Houston...or Jacksonville?

As I researched Guano Comix #4 on the internet, I stumbled across a web page on a high school reunion website. The site was built for the 40-year reunion of the 1970 graduating class at Waltrip High School in Houston, Texas. The web page contained a "classmate profile" for a man named Dennis Walker, who claimed to have drawn artwork for "Houston's first two underground comix in 1970 (Turkey Comix #1) and 1971 (Guano Comix #4)." Walker also said he was in three different bands and provided some links to YouTube videos that featured his performances.

So I went to YouTube and discovered he had nine videos. I sent him a message through YouTube and asked if he would answer a few questions about Guano Comix #4. So far he hasn't replied. But based on what he said in his classmate profile, I have no reason to doubt that he contributed to the comic book. And I believe he is the artist previously identified by Kennedy as "Daw?". The initials D and W stand for Dennis Walker. He wrote and drew the six-page story "Everydays and Welcome Home," as well as the center spread in the book and another one-page psychedelic illustration featuring The Beatles. If Walker ever gets back to me, I'll update this page with his recollections about Guano Comix.

So fuck, what about an actual review of Guano Comix #4? Okay fine, I'll write the review. Unlike Atomic Avenue, which declared Guano was filled with "Disassociative and discursive ramblings presumably passed off as being of some worth through peer group pressure," I think it's pretty good. There's a diverse range of quality in the book, which means the lesser work drags down the overall review score, but the stronger work bumps up the score a full point. The artists known as "narum" and "Woody" have some good stuff along with some average stuff, and Dennis Walker's six-page "Everydays and Welcome Home," featuring Reddog Cosmic Mouse and Al Waze Norbal, is a crudely drawn but interesting tale of intersecting realities. Walker's center spread and one-pager are much better drawn. The center spread appears to be directly inspired by Rick Griffin, and while Walker is no Griffin (there is no Griffin beyond Griffin), the complex and detailed artwork is fun to look at.

Pages 33 to 35 present three single illustrations by DRT, R. Sharp, and Walker, and they are all excellent works. DRT's is titled "Rima" and even Atomic Avenue admits it is an "excellent fantasy illustration." R. Sharp's panel looks a bit like a rock poster with its Griffinesque lettering (spelling out "AUM," whatever that means). Walker's untitled illustration on page 35 (featuring The Beatles) vies with DRT's "Rima" for the best artwork in the book, and I give the nod to Walker for his psychedelic stylings.

Guano Comix #4 may have mysterious origins and too many weaknesses to rank with the best of the undergrounds, but it's on my list of personal favorites that help personify what the underground offered to fledgling comic creators.
The Print Mint printed approximately 25,000 copies of this comic book. It has not been reprinted.

McCleery - 1
Narum - 2, 3, 12, 44
R. Sharp - 4, 34
unknown contributor - 5
Dennis Walker - 6-11, 22-23, 35
Woody - 13-18, 20, 24-29, 36, 42
unknown contributor - 19
Tom Moore - 21
Tucker - 30-32
D.R.T. - 33
Par Lixlee? - 37
unknown contributor - 38-40
unknown contributor - 41
St. David - 43